Chapter 48 – Rotten Egg
by lemuel moo
None of the students knew about the incident in the indoor kitchen. They broke into their categories for group training and came back for lunch.
Hideki returned to the students earlier for their morning training. The awkwardness between Clere and him had dissipated, but the distance between them hadn’t gone closer.
Jacinta was in love with Gale. However, her top priority wasn’t to win his favor, but to escape Colonel Jack’s clutches. She surmised she would only start thinking about relationships when things were more or less settled.
Reynard was looking to increase his fighting capabilities. He wanted Gale to be around for help, but because Gale was banned from training, he could only seek his advice after the sessions were over.
Victor called for dispatch to replace the incenses that were kept in the storeroom. The shipment arrived quickly, and Allan supervised the job.
It was a little awkward between Kasumi and Valerian, but Kasumi didn’t put the matter in her heart. Kasumi sought Gale out and had him around her most of the time from then. She decided not to join the combat instructors for lunch and sat with Gale instead.
“I didn’t see fishes from today’s raw ingredients. Where did you get them from, Gale?” Kasumi asked.
“By the river upstream. Didn’t take long to grab a fresh fish,” Gale replied.
Vanessa noticed the sweet aroma from Gale’s fishes, and she came to his table again. But this time, Clere sat closer to Gale and prevented Vanessa from sitting between them. Kasumi already leaned herself onto Gale, so there was no space as well.
“Wow, Clere, you learn fast,” Vanessa remarked. “Gale is sandwiched between two beautiful girls already! I should sit across him.”
Vanessa then sat with Reynard and leaned unto his body. Reynard felt uncomfortable and said, “Err… President? You’re too close!”
Vanessa looked at Reynard for a moment and chuckled. “What are you talking about, Reynard? I don’t mind bathing with you if you asked!”
“But I’m a guy — “
Vanessa whispered into Reynard, and he instantly froze. Gale’s keen ears picked up the phrase, “I know your secret.”
Gale glanced at Vanessa, and she stuck her tongue out for a moment. She promptly helped herself to Gale’s fishes and enjoyed herself.
Reynard whispered back to Vanessa, “Can we talk?”
Vanessa smiled. “After my fishes.”
Vanessa and Reynard were at a secluded clearing in the forest, and Reynard prompted a question. “H-How do you know about me?!”
Vanessa sighed. “Reynard, we’re both royalties. There was an invitation to me to witness a marriage duel, but it was quickly canceled.”
“But my disguise is perfect! I cannot believe you’re able to tell that I have royal blood!” Reynard exclaimed.
Vanessa explained, “I’ll admit your court magician did a fantastic job. You were here in Aelfsige Academy for months, but no one noticed. However, a search warrant was issued to the World Alliance, and every organization was forced to look into their records to search you out!
Principal Stella only realized after doing a thorough check a week ago. I heard about you as a passing mention from her.
The more important question is, are you ready for your duel?”
Reynard’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. “I’m not ready yet! Gale is the only one who can train me properly, but I haven’t had enough time with him at all!”
“Shouldn’t you tell him the truth already?” Vanessa asked. “Gale doesn’t realize you’re running out of time.”
“No. I can’t. Not like this,” Reynard said. “I don’t know what he will do if he finds out the truth.”
Vanessa said, “what can he do? He only has two choices. That is to train you or not.”
There was a moment of silence, and something struck Vanessa.
“Unless… you want Gale to fight for you?” Vanessa asked.
Reynard was silent. That was the last option. However, for another person to intervene in a marriage duel would invite serious consequences.
“Shouldn’t you ask your father, the King of Aragon, for permission?” Vanessa asked.
“But how do I ask for permission when I haven’t received Gale’s consent? He’s not a royal, and he doesn’t know the protocols of a royal.”
Vanessa thought for a moment, and then said, “either way, you’ll have to tell Gale eventually.”
“How much time do you think I have left before they find me out?” Reynard asked.
“You will have to face the music after you return to school from this camp. This is your last dateline. You’ve got to tell Gale before it happens,” Vanessa said.
A siren sounded from the camp, and Vanessa and Reynard knew it was time to head back for their afternoon sessions.
“Gale, can I have a moment with you?” Reynard asked.
It was after dinner, and everyone was taking a break before heading to bed. Reynard couldn’t hide the secrets in his heart any longer, and he decided to share it with him today.
Reynard took out his snacks and carried it with him. Gale saw the snacks and laughed.
“Are you still hungry?! We just had dinner!”
“S-Shut up! I brought these out to eat under the stars!”
Gale led Reynard to a spot near a brook, and there was soft grass for them to lay on. As they laid their heads and gazed at the stars, Reynard opened one of his snacks and started to munch.
“So what do you want to talk about, Reynard?”
“I-I’ve been keeping a secret from you, Gale,” Reynard stuttered. “I-I need your help!”
“My help? Tell me about it. If it’s within my powers, I will definitely help you.”
Reynard swallowed his saliva and tried to calm down as he nervously articulated his secret.
“I’m tied to an oath by my family. I was promised in an arranged marriage to another family from birth, and my father set a rule that the only way to break out of this marriage was to win a duel against my partner.
That’s the reason why I came to Aelfsige Academy to seek help.”
Gale glanced at Reynard. “You don’t like the partner whom you’re to marry?”
Reynard shook his head.
“Sounds rough. Is your partner strong?” Gale asked.
“Very strong. I have never won once.”
Gale pondered for a moment, and he asked. “When is this duel supposed to happen?”
“It’s overdue for almost a year. Royals usually marry by age fifteen.”
Gale’s eyes widened, and he stared at Reynard. “You have royal blood in you?!”
Reynard nodded. “I’m from the Kingdom Of Aragon.” Gale instantly remembered that Reynard was held hostage by assassins, and he was appalled!
“Do you have any idea what it could’ve been if those assassins knew you were a royal?! My gosh, this is insane!”
Reynard bowed his head in apology. “I’m sorry.”
Gale saw that Reynard was feeling guilty and he didn’t pursue the matter further. “Thank goodness everything went well! I’m glad you’re finally telling me your secret. Now I know you’re one person that cannot be kidnapped.”
“Yeah, but this is not the reason why I’m telling you my secret,” Reynard said. “I want out of this marriage deal, but I fear I’m not strong enough to face the challenge, and my identity will be exposed very soon. They are hunting me down this very moment.”
Gale sighed. “You should tell me earlier, and I would’ve done something to train you properly. Is there an alternative around this?”
“Yes, there is,” Reynard said. “If you agree to fight on my behalf.”
Gale raised his eyebrows. “Fighting on your behalf is easy, but what’s the catch?”
Reynard didn’t dare to look at Gale’s eyes. “You will have to marry.”
Gale turned his body and stared straight at Reynard. “Excuse me. You don’t like the girl, but you’re passing her to me?! No, thanks!”
“That girl isn’t bad! She’s kind and friendly — “
“And you’re passing up on a kind and friendly princess?! C’mon bro, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Gale interrupted.
Reynard bit his lips and had tears in his eyes, and Gale softened his tone. “Look, Reynard, I have someone I like already. I can’t go marry someone else suddenly!”
“You can be a royal and have a harem!”
“But I’m not looking for a harem!” Gale protested.
“Why not? A beautiful bed of flowers! Which guy wouldn’t want that?”
“Talk about yourself! You don’t seem to want it!” Gale quipped.
“I’m not born to have a harem!” Reynard protested.
“What are you saying?! It doesn’t make any sense! I’m not a royal, but you are! If you’re not born to have a harem, then who is?!”
Both Reynard and Gale paused to catch a breather. Gale realized that the conversation steered off the crux of the situation, and he asked another question.
“Is it possible to fight on behalf of you and not marry?”
“…Yes. Win the fight, and then tell my father that you don’t want to marry,” Reynard answered.
“…That sounds easy.”
“But by doing that, you insult the honor of two kingdoms. My kingdom and my partner’s.”
Gale had his hand on his head. It was a zero-sum problem.
“Let’s get you trained up as much as possible. Perhaps you can tell me about your opponent’s fighting style, and I can come up with some countermeasures.”
“I only have a week left,” Reynard said. “I’ll have to face the music after the camp.”
Gale almost pulled his hair in frustration.
“Whatever. I’ll tell you what. We’ll train you as much as we can. If you lose, then I’ll step in and win the fight. I’m telling your father I’m annulling the marriage if that happens. Does that sound fine with you?”
“…You’re not worried about stepping on the honor of two kingdoms?”
“I’m not worried at all. Lynchpins or kingdoms, they are all the same to me,” Gale replied.
“Why would you go so far for my sake?” Reynard asked.
“Stop asking the dumb questions! I already went as far as I can by being your backup! We’ll have hellish training starting tomorrow, and you better be prepared for it!”
Reynard turned away from Gale to hide a smile.
Early in the morning, sounds of a hammer forging metal rang throughout the camp. It was way before the stipulated time for breakfast.
The campers woke up and looked for the source of the disturbance. They found Gale half naked with a makeshift forge, and he was hammering away on hot metal.
“Gale Gainsborough! What are you doing so early in the morning?!” Victor Spectre demanded.
Gale glanced at Victor for a brief moment and continued hammering. “Can’t you see? I’m forging a sword.”
“This is way too early to be forging a sword!” Victor yelled.
“I’ve nowhere else to forge a sword,” Gale said as he continues hammering. “And if you guys want to win the school tournament, you shouldn’t be sleeping at this hour.”
Clere chuckled as it was four in the morning. Gale and Clere usually trained at that time.
“I’m ready for training, Gale!” Clere said.
“Good. Where’s our boy, Reynard?”
Reynard stepped forward as he yawned. Gale, with a bad-ass attitude, said to him, “You’re going to start training with Clere right now. She will teach you the ropes of my training. Your new sword will be done by this afternoon, and we’ll begin your training from hell.
The rest of you, use earplugs while you sleep.”
“Why you — “ Victor wanted to yell again, but Kasumi stopped him.
“Gale’s given exclusive authority to start training his team. He’s not violating any rules, and he already said the sword would be done by this afternoon. We’ll not hear it again after this.”
Victor was brimming with anger, but Kasumi’s words soothed him.
“Fine! Everyone, get back to sleep and use your earplugs!”
The rest of the campers murmured among themselves because they thought Gale was crazy. Kasumi giggled and then stayed around with Clere and Reynard.
Gale glanced at Kasumi. “Not going to sleep?”
“Nope! I want to know about your training!”
Jacinta walked forward and didn’t return to her tent.
“I thought we’re going to begin our customized training in a few days? And didn’t you say you don’t want anybody to know you can forge weapons?”
Gale cooled the hot metal in a bucket of cold water before answering. “I have only one week to whip Reynard into shape. It would’ve been less painful if he told me earlier.
Clere, start the warm-ups. We will focus on [qi] and make sure they get their basics right.”
By the time the campers started their breakfast, Clere and her crew ran for ten miles and completed forty sets of workouts. Usually, it was only twenty sets, but Gale amplified the intensity of the training.
Kasumi, Jacinta, and Reynard were panting like crazy as they completed the first round of their training. Clere gave them pills to grow their strength and recover their stamina quickly.
For the finishing touch, Clere and her crew sat in a meditative mood to cultivate their energy. After the training, they were allowed to have their breakfast with the rest of the campers.
“This is only the morning session?!” Jacinta complained as her muscles ached severely.
“I’ve only trained with Gale in the mornings,” Clere said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the afternoon.”
“It could be the flash flood training!” Reynard realized. Both Jacinta and Reynard shuddered in fear as they thought about it.
“I won’t be able to join you all. I’ve duties as a combat instructor,” Kasumi said.
“You sound relieved,” joked Clere.
Clere and the crew went to the outdoor kitchen and prepared their breakfast.
Gale wasn’t interested in breakfast. He continued to hammer away and forge the weapon as the rest of the students ate.
“Is Gale even a blacksmith?”
“Maybe he’s just a wannabe!”
The students murmured among themselves, but Gale was oblivious to it all. He had a mission in his mind, and he determined in his heart to finish it. Kasumi came to him with some food and fed it in his mouth.
“You shouldn’t overwork, Gale.”
“It’s fine, Kasumi,” Gale replied. “I’m almost done.”
The rest of the students were in awe because Kasumi fed Gale while he was hammering away.
The morning workout came and went, and Gale applied the finishing touches to the blade. The black sword was as broad and as long as the stone swords which Gale crafted for Reynard using the [Five Elemental Wooden Sword]. It was 270 pounds, with a length of 1.7 meters and a shoulder’s width wide.
It looked magnificent under the sunlight as light reflected from the dark surface. Reynard ran to Gale as he saw that his sword was done.
“This sword is made of [Void Stone], and it’s capable of absorbing or amplifying energy. I haven’t had the time to sharpen it, but for training purposes, you don’t need it to have an edge.
We’ll begin your training with this sword. Guard it with your life.”
Serena and the class surrounded Reynard as the latter swung his sword quickly. Hideki came to Gale and asked, “Where did you get the [Void Stone]?”
“From my adventures,” Gale said as he dismantled his makeshift forge. Hideki didn’t ask further about the adventures and Gale continued to clean up the mess around him.
The Four Abominations were curious of Gale’s sword, so they stood near Gale, and Gale went to Asti for a request.
“Can you fight with Reynard again? I want to see what is his level when he has a proper sword.”
Asti picked up her staff and wine bottle and walked towards Reynard. “Anytime.”
Asti emptied the wine bottle into her mouth and activated her [Monkey God Technique]. A golden aura enveloped Asti, and everyone could sense that she powered up.
“Listen up, Reynard. The [Monkey God Technique] is not about power, but about unpredictability. Ms. Asti’s special wine gave her a temporary boost to her strength and energy. This is what it means to use special foods or pills to power up.
You’re not expected to win against Ms. Asti, but you should hold your ground as long as you can. I need to see how long you can last and estimate how much you should grow.”
Reynard nodded and steeled his mind to take Asti’s challenge.
Asti rushed towards Reynard and thrust her staff multiple times to attack Reynard’s chest, but Reynard parried the attacks quickly. Unlike the previous time, the sword didn’t shatter under the impact and Reynard could hold his ground from the first wave of attacks.
Asti then swept her staff at Reynard’s legs, and Reynard used her sword to block, but Asti’s overhead kick landed on his head, and Reynard was pushed back several feet!
Asti didn’t want to give Reynard any breathing space, and she continued her ferocious attacks from above. Reynard swung his sword upward as forceful as he could and managed to block the attack, but Asti somersaulted in midair and landed her staff on Reynard’s left shoulder as she relentlessly attacked.
That impact almost dislocated Reynard’s shoulder, but Reynard refused to give up. Instead of defending, he stepped forward to attack with simple swipes. Because his sword was huge and heavy, each swipe covered a considerable area, and Asti was forced to defend for a few moments.
But Asti’s experience overrun Reynard’s as she was able to pick out loopholes in his simple attacks. She would jab his armpits, his sides, and his feet from openings to cause him to fall.
Reynard landed on his face to the ground, and Asti stopped her staff before touching his head with it.
“Hic. I win. Hic. Not bad.”
Asti fell onto her staff and slept as her [Monkey God Technique] wore off.
“This is a slightly better performance than yesterday, but you didn’t lose because your stone sword shattered,” Gale concluded. “You lost because of the lack of experience and finesse in your techniques. We’ll have to continue the flash flood training, but after that, we’ll work on techniques.
It was an excellent effort to try to attack though. Usually, folks who are overwhelmed wouldn’t think about attacking.
Pick yourself up, and we’ll move into the next phase.”
As Gale walked away, Jacinta rushed forward to pick Reynard up.
“This is so brutal.”
Reynard gave a wry smile. “I asked for it.”
Aunt May hid in the shadows around the forests of mount Gilbor. It was a vast area, and she spent some time surveying the land before beginning her operation.
[Shadow Sense] was a ninjutsu technique to detect presence using shadows. As the sun blazed brightly, shadows were everywhere.
Aunt May and Gale didn’t know how to use magic, but they could use [Mystic Arts] well. [Mystic Arts] depended on a set of rules and elements to invoke, and ninjutsu was mostly base on [Mystic Arts].
As shadows are based on the [Dark] element, Aunt May was able to sense presence using her [Shadow Sense] technique.
“Hmm? A young pup is lurking near the camp,” Aunt May observed.
Aunt May erased her presence and sneaked up to the person. It was a fourteen-year-old girl, and she was using binoculars to scout the camp.
“It’s been some time! Why didn’t Hideki report back to me?!” The girl pouted.
Aunt May hid so well that she stood next to the girl and the girl didn’t even notice. Aunt May used her ninjutsu [Chameleon Skin] and blended her body into the surroundings.
“Anyway, it’s time to go back!”
The girl kept her binoculars and headed towards the foot of mount Gilbor. Aunt May was only several feet behind her, but the girl didn’t notice.
At the foot of the mountain, there was a wooden shed, and a man with a katana was drinking tea on an outdoor bench. Aunt May quickly hid on the roof of the wooden shed as the girl joined the man on the court.
“So did Hideki report to you, Naomi?”
Naomi said, “He didn’t! I guess the [Mysterious Allure] didn’t work!”
Aunt May burned with rage as she heard the name of the date rape drug.
“If Hideki can’t meet up with you, it means his hands are tied. Wait for tonight and see if you can meet up with him again,” the man said.
“Sigh. This is a boring job, dad,” Naomi said.
“Be patient. This thing involves the future of the Mizushima clan. It will be great if Kasumi can marry Valerian,” the man said.
“But Kasumi already said she doesn’t like Valerian,” Naomi pouted.
The dad looked at Naomi and caressed her hair. “I have to ensure that the Mizushima’s name will be as glorious as our golden years. Also, Kasumi is my late brother’s daughter, and I’m duty bound to take care of her.
Once I take care of Kasumi’s and Hideki’s marriage matters, it will be your turn, Naomi.”
“I don’t mind Hideki though,” Naomi said. “Didn’t you once say that he’s a good candidate for me?”
“I did, but to marry one of the daughters of Agatha Sigrun is important,” the man said. “The Sigrun family holds influence over the World Alliance and the lynchpins. It’s a pity you were not born a man, or I would have gotten one of her daughters to marry you.
Hideki is as good as it gets.”
Aunt May thought to herself, “Kenji Mizushima. You sly fox. If you weren’t Kasumi’s relative, I would have your head now.
Hideki is a rotten egg. How could he do this to his sister?! Now, what should I do with this information? I should discuss this with Agatha immediately.”
Aunt May left a clone to monitor Naomi, and Kenji Mizushima using her [Body Double] technique and left the area.